Tag Archives: plants

Anubias are easy right? If you struggle, read on…

I think so and you’ll succeed with them if you remember these few things:

  1. they don’t need much light
  2. they need tying to wood or rock (always)
  3. they grow slow so be patient

Too many hobbyists place them in the wrong position and this stresses them out. They are placed near the filter outlet or close to the light. If you want your anubias to dump their leaves pretty fast, just position them there.

Similarly, sometimes anubias will drop all their leaves which is rather frustrating. I’s a bit like a snake shedding their skin, but in this case it’s due to their new environment. If it’s dramatically different from where they have been growing, then it might happen. Doesn’t always but sometimes.

And this is my favourite anubias atm = what’s yours?

Tissue Culture Plants from Anubias in Italy

Due to the rising popularity of tissue cultured plants, I wanted to expand the range and offer some more plants that were a little different to what is available from Tropica.

Anubias which is a company based in Italy produce a very broad range of tissue cultured plants and some of them look pretty exciting. I also realise some of you may not have a clue what tissue culture plants are so here’s the definition:

Tissue culture (T/C) is a way to obtain perfect, sterile clones of a plant thanks to in vitro conditions, from a very small piece of a mother plant. T/C cultured plants are the best solution for many problems, for the aquarium enthusiasts.

Benefit for the aquarist:

  • The availability of plants generally avoided by plant nurseries, because difficult to grow emerged
  • Many T/C cultured species start growing very promptly once in a tank, faster than potted plants grown emerged
  • T/C plants are pesticide-free
  • T/C plants are algae spores-free
  • T/C plants don’t carry Lemna sp., snails, Hydra and any other unwanted organism
  • T/C plants are rockwool–free, so no contaminants or mechanic threats are carried into the tank

So there we have it. They’re pretty neat and as you can see from the above, sterile and free of all snails and algae. You can check out our range by clicking on this link.

Cryptocoryne petchi Pink CUP

Aquarium plants dying

Sounds familiar?

It is to me. But then I am on the receiving end but if you go onto forums you’ll see this sort of statement all the time. I often here the same reason as to why aquarium plants are dying and it’s normally due to the fact that they have algae. They’ve been told (normally by shops) they need to starve the algae. Advice like this is sooooo old school yet the message is continually advised from shop owners who in my opinion clearly don’t know what is best.

So hobbyists follow the advice given to starve their algae and totally stop the nutrients they are putting in. Algae dies back a little and plants totally disintegrate – the reason why is simply

you’ve just starved your plants to death…

My advice to anyone who is looking for advice is speak to experts, like us (and a few others) who know what is best, and not generic shops which peddle out these toxic messages. If your plants are dying you need to first work out why. First, are they actually aquatic plants? Sounds a funny thing to ask but there are still a lot of shops that sell non aquatic plants! This only adds to confusion to hobbyists who may be doing everything else right. Below are pictures of a few non aquatic plant – looks nice heh?

 

problem is they will last a couple of weeks then start breaking down. These plants should live in your garden or conservatory, not in your tank. So if you have a plant that looks like these (normally they come without plant labels for identification), remove them and start again.

Secondly, are your plants getting the right nutrients? I’m recommending Neutro T for non CO2 tanks and Neutro+ for CO2 infused tanks.Your plants need no other nutrients with these ferts below.

neutro t aquarium fertiliser

neutro+ aquarium fertiliser

You add these ferts daily because that’s what plants want. Just like us, they want feeding every day – not so crazy is it? Feeding weekly is nuts and just marketing spiel to make it appear that the fertilisers are more economical then they actually are.

Are you providing your plants with carbon is gas or liquid form? If not, why not? Carbon is the backbone of plant growth and without it, your plants will suffer. Try Neutro CO2

neutro CO2 aquarium fertiliser

Are you performing weekly water changes of at least 30%? Plants need clean water unless you want to grow algae and I’m guessing you don’t.

If you follow these very basic steps I guarantee that you will have success with the majority of plants. Some that you might struggle with are advanced one’s but we’ll get onto that at another time.

If you’re still having troubles, reply to this post and let’s talk :) Call us on 01363 774 787.

Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants. Have you tried them?!

We’re delighted to announce that we are stocking the Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants and they’re looking awesome. The plants really are perfection in the making. And they may look small but don’t be deceived, because the sheer number of plants in them in staggering. Each container is jam packed full of incredibly healthy plants, just waiting to be chopped into smaller pieces by you and planted into your aquarium.

For those that don’t know, 1-2-Grow! plants are grown in labs in tissue culture. That means there is never any chance of algae, snails or pesticides of any sort – it’s simply impossible. Perfect for sensitive fish or shrimp.

You can find our range of Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants on our website by clicking here. As you will be able to tell it’s quite diverse already from mosses to stem plants. And because they are grown by Tropica, you know the quality and consistency is always 100%. It’s a really brave move by Tropica to introduce these sort of plants on a commercial scale. I know they feel it is the future of aquatic plants, but the question is do you?

Have you tried these plants yet? Do you think they are good value? Perhaps there might be a reason why you don’t want to try them and I’d love to hear why!! Reply below!

Planted tank inspiration

Our good friend Mark Evans has created yet another inspiring aquascape and a beautifully presented video as well. I love watching clips like this, especially first thing in the morning as it sets the tone of the day immediately.

Mark is a hard worker. He tries a lot, experiments and this is proof of the hard work that he has put in and his dedication to the hobby. He’s doing wonders for the UK market and I hope it inspires you. If it does, tell me what you think!

Struggling with foreground plants?

You won’t be the first and certainly not the last. Foreground plants are the trickiest – not because they are harder than other plants, but just that they need a little more attention than others. The main factor to consider is their location – right at the bottom of the tank where there is the least amount of light, water movement and CO2.

If your foreground plants are struggling, think about their location and then ask yourself this question:

are you giving them what they want?

 

They want decent light, good fertilisers and CO2. If you don’t give them this, growth will be slow and odds are the plants will die off and algae grows. Point your circulation pump at them – they need to sway in the current and make sure CO2 is physically being pushed over them and getting trapped in the leaves.

Make sure you’re providing good ferts like Neutro+ because when the CO2 is being pushed over them, the ferts will be too (double whammy :))

Are you struggling with foreground plants? Let me know and reply to this post and I can help

What’s your favourite one – mine if HC :)

Damn plants won’t grow

I hear this all the time and I know it’s a big issue for you guys. The good thing is you don’t need to sweat about it as it’s easily solved. Here are my top tips:

  1. Make sure you are using a decent fertiliser which provides what your plants need. If you have demanding plants that means they need CO2 and lots of ferts (both trace and macros). Dose the ferts on a daily basis (not weekly) as you’ll get better results this way.
  2. Algae is caused due to fluctuating levels in your aquarium so keep things stable – add ferts every day, perform large water changes every week (yes every week) and keep on top of maintenance. When you slack off, algae rears it’s ugly head.
  3. Limit your lighting. The longer your lighting is on for, the more problems you may have. I suggest no more than 8 hours a day and if you’re having problems with algae, drop it down to 6 hours until it levels off.
  4. Use a liquid carbon which helps to get rid of algae. Super popular (for that reason) and if you dose according to the bottle instructions you’ll be pleased with the results.
  5. Ensure you have enough plants in your tank. Having a tank 30% planted is just not enough and creates instability (then algae…). Look to have a tank about 80% full of plants and you’ll find everything a lot easier.

What problems do you have with your planted aquarium?

Mixed Boxes Of Aquarium Plants

I’ve written a post about our rather excellent mixed boxes of plants, so I won’t repeat myself. What I will do is remind you of the benefits of them and how the more you buy, the cheaper the plants are.

The benefits of mixed boxes are that we decide for you which plants are a best. Typically a mixed box of plants is suitable for hobbyists who are either new to the hobby, or they just can’t decide! We put in pots that are considered relatively easy to grow, so we won’t put in plants that would only survive with CO2. Not only that but don’t forget all our plants come with a full root structure which means not only do they plant easily and anchor down, but they also begin growing immediately in your tank.

When you invest in a mixed box of potted plants, not only do we select a superb range of foreground, midground and background plants but we also give you free fertilisers. That’s right, totally free. And, if you go for one of the mixed boxes of 40 or 50, the price of the potted plants drops down to £2.75. This becomes incredible value for such high quality potted plants when you consider a typical potted plant costs £3.99.

You can find our mixed boxes by clicking here and if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.

Potted Aquarium Plants

Aquafleur Plants – and a video!!

We’ve been a big fan of Aquafleur plants for a long time now. Not only are they great value for money, but they’re darn good growers of plants too. I knew they were a pretty extensive organisation and they’ve recently produced a video that is well worth a watch. Now I know you’re busy, but it’s only 4 minutes long and is a super watch detailing their premises and the plants they grow along with how they grow them.

It’s fascinating to see how some plants are sprayed really intensively (you wouldn’t want to be stood under it when it happens) and others are sprayed for less than 1 second. I wonder how they know this and what the time is from spray to spray. Do you know – if so let me know!?

Anyway, you can see their video by clicking here and then clicking their video on the top right of the screen.

I would love to hear your thoughts on it and don’t forget our range of Aquafleur plants can be found by Potted Plants.

Pogostemon Erectus – a foreground and background plant

This really is a cracking plant and new to the scene too, having only arrived about 6 months ago, and never seen before in the hobby. New plants are always exciting as it opens doors to new aquascapes…

Pogostemon Erectus is a fine leafed stem plant which has conifer likes stems (very unusual) which are bright green and vivid. Extremely eye catching, it becomes an instant focal point and one of the reasons it has shot to fame. Like all stem plants if you keep the lighting bright it ensures the plant stays low and compact making it a great plant if you’re looking for something on the foreground. Of course, you can still grow it as a background plant if your lighting is less powerful; expect it to grow up to 40cm in that case.

It’s a fairly easy easy plant to grow, but you need to make sure you have decent fertilisers and of course CO2 is always beneficial if you want to get the best from this plant. Failure to do this always results on algae taking hold and settling quickly of the leaves. Temperature wise, 22-28° C is recommended so this won’t cause problems for most of you. Always plant Pogostemon Erectus in a group of 3 pots or more as it will look best that way, and what is even more wonderful is watching it sway in the current – it’s quite mesmerising…

To see the complete range of our aquatic plants for planted aquariums, please click on this link.

Giesemann T5 Powerchrome

If you’re a serious hobbyist who appreciates quality products for your planted aquarium then the Giesemann T5 Powerchrome range of lamps are just the ticket for you. Giesemann, for those of you not familiar with the brand are German with a phenomenal reputation for quality and these lights will not disappoint. We supply two different types which emit different lights colours – this is the primary difference between the two.

Aquaflora – a perfect lamp for increasing plant growth in your aquarium. These lamps emit colours which not only highlight the colours of your fish but also the plants. The brightness of these lamps is incredible and as soon as you place them in your aquarium, you will notice a big difference immediately. Plants which haven’t pearled before may suddenly pearl if you are using CO2.

Midday – A stunning 6000k lamp which produces a very natural light. Easy on the eye, this lamp is specifically designed for plant growth and similar to the Aquaflora, once installed you will be amazed at how bright the lamp in.

Should I mix the lamps? We recommend if you have 2 T5s lamps you should use 1 x Midday and 1 x Aquaflora for the best effect in bringing out colours of your fish and plants, along with incredible plant growth.

How often should I replace them? Like all lamps their output decreases from the minute you turn them on. A typical life span of a T5 lamp for a planted aquarium is 12 months – you may think that there is no difference in the output but there is. Without a light meter you would never know this. To the naked eye, you wouldn’t notice any difference either particularly as you look at your aquarium every day so any light decrease happens very gradually and is subtle. The difference is your plants will notice a big difference and if you looked at a new tube compared to one which is 12 months old, then you would see how one has aged. So if you change every 12 months, your plants remain happy and continue to grow as expected. Slow plant growth can be attributed to limited light output.

I’ve heard I shouldn’t change all my lamps together – is this true? Absolutely, and for the reasons mentioned above, lights deteriorate over time. If you replace all your lamps together the new lamps will be much brighter than the old one’s and this can stimulate algae growth as your plants will have adjusted to the old light levels over time. So when it comes to changing them, replace them one month apart to avoid mjaor disruption and algae outbreaks.

Can I use these T5s on my set up? Providing you are already using T5s then yes. Make sure you use lamps of the same length and you’ll be fine.

The best T5s on the market...

Trimming Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”

Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC) has risen to fame with it’s tiny leaves and the ability to carpet a foreground of a planted aquarium very nicely. Of course like all plants you need to provide them with fantastic CO2 levels, excellent nutrients and sufficient water movement for distribution. If you tick all those boxes you get get results.

I found this video online and actions speak better than words and felt it was a worthy post so hobbyists can not only see how feasible it is to create a carpet of HC but also the type of maintenance it needs (along with a decent pair of curved scissors).

For those of you who are not familiar with the grower of this aquarium, he’s a chap called Victor Lantos and he runs an amazing aquascaping shop in Hungary. Check it out here http://www.greenaqua.hu/

Lighting In A Planted Aquarium

With the vast choice in lighting, it can be difficult to know exactly what sort of lighting you should choose. This section explains all and sifts through any confusion.
It is generally accepted that T8 and T5 tubes are the most standard type of lighting in aquariums at the moment.  T8 indicates the tube diameter which in this case is one inch. If you use T5 lights, the diameter is 5/12”. The most popular brands are Arcadia and Interpet. If you buy a Juwel tank for example, the chances are you have 2 x T5 tubes and you’re able to swap these lights over should you wish.

But what are the key points to look out for with lighting? The first point is make sure it is suitable for planted aquariums – this will be apparent from the description on the packaging. Quite often manufacturers will have wonderful graphics on the packaging which should catch your eye. But the next question is which one should you buy?
Before I explain more about which lighting to choose, it’s important to understand more about lighting. All light has colour and the colour temperature of light is measured in Kelvin, so when you see a description which states it has a particular K value (kelvin) it is referring to the colour of the light output. A low K rating would be 2500 and a high would be 18000. It is recommended that you aim for about 8000 K as this provides a pleasant colour output. But this is not to say that the lower K and higher K won’t grow your plants (on the contrary), it’s simply their light output is less desirable aesthetically to humans. A low K value is orange/yellow in colour – this tends to not do a great deal for the fish or plants in terms of how they look. At the opposite end of the spectrum, are 18000K which is a very bright white. This light output will grow your plants just as well as lower K tubes but it can give the appearance of your tank looking washed out. So this is why if you aim for lights with a K of about 8000k -  you will achieve a colour that is just about in the middle and normally the most pleasing to the eye. You can mix and match lights without any problems too so don’t rule that out.

There can be a temptation to purchase more powerful lights such as metal halides but this is not something that is recommended when you’re beginning. Higher lighting means everything in your aquarium needs to step up a level. By that we mean that your fertilising regime needs increasing, which in turn means you will be maintaining your tank more. In addition higher lighting requires the use of CO2.

Lighting Duration. An average tank needs approximately eight hours of light per day. Having your lights on longer than this is not necessary and it will help to keep most algae at bay. It’s worth putting your lights on a timer and have them come on when you’re at home to make the most out of it. When your tank is very new and plants are settling in, I recommend to only have six to seven hours of illumination for the first month or so and any changes need to be done slowly (perhaps half an hour extra per week).

The image below displays an Arcadia luminaire which is a great way to illuminate an aquarium. Also consider TMC Aquabeam LEDs which are small and economical LED lighting units which have become very popular recently – running costs are a mere £7 per year.

Gravels and Substrates in a Planted Aquarium

So what are they all about? Nearly all plants need a type of gravel or substrate to grow in. It’s required to anchor plants down and in some cases to provide nutrients to the roots of plants. It’s also used aesthetically so when we look at our aquarium – it looks nice! Below I summerise what the difference between the two are and how they are used.

Gravel. There are hundreds of different types of gravels available to hobbyists and similarly the same with substrates but what is the difference between the two? Gravels are very much what you expect them to be. Rock particles which have a diameter of 3-25mm – if you’re wanting to use it for your planted aquarium, the ideal size is 3-5mm. Any smaller than this (i.e. if you use sand) and you can get pockets of anaerobic areas where there’s insufficient water flow.

Gravels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but contain no nutrients; some need washing and some will only need rinsing depending on the instructions. Some will effect your water parameters (such as pH). On the whole I recommend you opt for natural gravels – one which hasn’t been dyed in
any way. Unipac do a great selection of natural gravels. Be careful with gravels that look natural but are in fact coloured glass. Whilst they are safe for use within planted aquariums, fish which burrow or that skim along the gravel like corydoras will ware their barbels down. Natural gravels
will not have that sort of effect. You can see our range of gravels here.

Substrates. A substrate is very similar to a gravel but there is one fundamental difference and that is the nutrient content. Substrates have minerals and nutrients embedded in them thereby providing plants with all the goodness they need from day one. This is the major advantage over gravels.
 Substrates are produced in different colours and each will have a different effect on the water. On the whole most tend to lower the pH levels, along with KH (carbonate hardness) and GH (general hardness). This makes them ideal for using in planted aquariums as plants prefer slightly acidic
water conditions where the pH is just under 7 (6.8 is perfect). Substrates rarely require topping which means that once you place them in your aquarium, you won’t need anything else on the base – typical examples of this are Eco Complete, Seachem Flourite and Naturesoil. Plants can be planted
directly into the substrate with relative ease. The picture above demonstrates this perfectly – the dark coloured substrate (Naturesoil in this instance) has been used and plants become established quickly, grow rapidly, healthily with no algae.
 As technology improves more and more manufacturers are realising the importance of substrates. The most popular type that is currently available is called NatureSoil by world famous Aquascaper Oliver Knott. If you want your plants to have the best start, this substrate comes highly recommended. Not only that but it’s perfect for beginners to experts and requires no topping and sets your water parameters to the ideal levels. However if you do have a particular gravel that
you want to use, opt for Tropica Plant Substrate. Place this on the bottom of your aquarium and simply top with your chosen gravel.

More Aquatic Plants = More CO2

Have you ever had a CO2 infused planted aquarium and for a while everything went just right? You had no problems, things were doing well, no algae and you felt pretty pleased with yourself :). In fact, you had temporarily nailed it and then…

algae appears

So you rack your brain, think about what has changed and what might have happened but you still draw a blank. The answer is that you have probably become a victim of your own success (or at least your tank has). As your tank matures, plants grow. This means that the increased biomass effects water distribution along with the plants requiring more fertilisers. If you have kept your CO2 levels the same as before and you’re still adding the same amount of fertilisers as before, you can begin to see why the problem has evolved. Slowly but surely you’ve been starving your plants of what they really need:

  1. More CO2
  2. More Fertilisers
  3. Better Water Distribution

The best thing to do at this stage is to give your plants a good haircut. This will bring overall levels back to where they were (when the tank was doing great). Any deformed leaves or one’s which have algae on them should be chopped off. Essentially you are resetting your aquarium and now you know better. It’s important to stress that as your tank grows you have to increase CO2, fertilisers and improve water flow. Larger plants will block water in its path and stop essential nutrients from getting where they used to. Pay attention to what your plants are telling you – observe your CO2 bubbles and see if they are getting to everywhere that they should. This is the beauty about using pressurised CO2 as you can watch the tiny bubbles move around the tank and if they’re not getting to a certain area, then you can bet fertilisers aren’t either.

In summary, it’s easy to overlook the correlation between plants growing and the effect this has on your planted aquarium. Just remember that as they grow, more demands are put on the aquarium unless you maintain the plants to a specific size (trimming weekly for example).

Have you had problems with your aquarium and overcome them? I’d love to here them.

Synthetic Aquarium Plants

Not everyone has the time to be able to commit to a planted aquarium in terms of maintenance – after all we know how long it takes to perform water changes, trim plants, feed and so on and with today’s busy life styles, sometimes we run out of time. From a commercial perspective it’s not possible to look at a planted aquarium everyday (this is what CO2 infused one’s really need especially at the beginning). Lets take www.aquariumdesigngroup.com who are market leaders in the USA. They set up and maintain aquariums for wealthy clients. What is interesting is that many of their clients have aquariums where the plants are synthetic. This is for 2 reasons:

  1. They don’t want the tank maintainers to be in their house every day checking up how things are going
  2. You can create amazing aquascapes even without real plants, as long as the quality of the plants is of high standard.

Let me introduce to you Superfish Plastic Plants. These have been produced to really high standards and once in the aquarium you would be hard pushed to tell they were actually different from live plants. The range consists of different sizes of plants to ensure what ever type of aquascape you want it is possible. To make an aquarium really work which uses plastic plants, we recommend that you use real rocks – something like mini landscape rocks and sumatra driftwood. By using a combination of these natural products with synthetic one’s, the impact can be incredible and the maintenance almost zero.